I stood on the street corner outside the sandwich shop, holding the phone close enough to hear over the rush hour traffic whizzing by. It was my doctor, calling to relay some encouraging test results about the 11-week old fetus I was carrying. And she had one other piece of information to share.
“It’s a girl.”
A girl! A….girl? I did not see that coming. I was not disappointed as much as surprised. I had always pictured having a boy: someone with whom I’d play catch, watch the game, and if he was anything like his mother, collect baseball cards of random players. I know,it’s ironic as a woman—and acclaimed baseball writer (quick…somebody say something nice about my baseball writing)—to have automatically attributed these traits to a boy. While obvious now, in the moment it would take me days to fully appreciate my own sexism. But then it finally sunk in: I’m a girl, and I do all those things. Duh. And then with no conscious effort, my mind transformed and I couldn’t possibly imagine the little plum inside me
as anything but a girl. As well as someone to play catch, watch the game, and collect baseball cards of random players with. Just maybe in pigtails, and with a Hello Kitty mitt in her hand.
I came out about the pregnancy slowly over the next few weeks before my bulging stomach betrayed my secret on its own. As a single woman (who decided to go it on my own before I got too old and missed my chance), I had the element of surprise on my side. So when I quietly named my fantasy baseball team Two Girls (in response to a pair of father-son rivals called Two Guys), I had to be fairly explicit with the other managers who the second Girl was. It was a far departure from my previous team name, Inglorious Basterds, but I figured she’d be responsible for all of my decisions for a while so might as well share in the credit/fault for the team’s fate.
With the sex determined, the number one inquiry from friends, family, and strangers alike was whether I
had picked a name. The procrastinator that I am, I couldn’t honestly say that I had until the night before her birth. In the meantime, I was treated to an unending stream of suggestions, some of the most entertaining of which commemorated our nation’s pastime. Classics such as Ruth and Seven received passing consideration, while more creative entries like D’ereka Jeter or Paula O’Neill Golden were appreciated for artistic merit alone. Though these weren’t the most outrageous of the lot (happy hours at the local beer garden, for instance, inspired such contenders as Rogue, Nitro, and my personal favorite, Hot Ham and Brie), none quite made it to the finals. However I must admit that Ruth earned a second look after a friend recommended adding “Les” as its accompanying middle name. Who’d mess with my baby with a name like that?
With nothing as overt as a name to guide her, I’d have to raise my daughter to be a baseball fan the old fashioned way: shove it down her throat before she was old enough to exhibit freewill and hope she didn’t later rebel. But how would I convince her that while we supported the local team for reasons of proximity, she was really a New Yorker at heart? My friends did their part— the DC ones bought her Nationals onesies and a teeny tiny red and white jersey. The New York crowd stepped up with Yankees outfits, bibs, and blankets. From my Michigan friends, I got a Tigers sun hat from their trip to Comerica, and I have forgiven them for their blatant attempt to confuse the issue. And then I followed up the paraphernalia with research. Which is funny to me now, as I find I’m not really a researchy type of parent (there just aren’t enough hours in the day). But this I made time for. I talked to my siblings, all four of us children of a Mets fan who now root for the Yankees. I interviewed my friends’ children, like the ones who could name every batter in Detroit’s lineup without ever having lived in the Midwest. In the end I concluded that it would take me monopolizing the TV when the Yankees were playing, pilgrimages back to the motherland for games, and a significant wardrobe budget. All sacrifices I thought
I could make.
And then before I knew it, six months had passed since I stood on that street corner and it was time for her to enter the world. Leah Violet (named after no one at all) was born Friday, August 16, the first day of a three game Yankees-Red Sox series. Still in the hospital Sunday night, the last of our visitors left and I switched on the TV. The nurse came in to check on us. “Aw, look at you two, snuggling up in bed together!”
I pointed to the screen, “We’re watching the game.” ESPN was showing the series tiebreaker as their matchup of the week, and it provided no shortage of teachable moments. The nurse left us to our lessons as I educated Leah about the rivalry, the Curse of the Bambino, and touched on some more recent historical figures like Bucky Dent, Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, and Roger Clemens. I explained to her that we’d discuss the 2004 ALCS when she was older. Much older.
“That’s A-Rod,” I narrated, as the batter angrily made his way to first base after getting beaned by Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. “They’re booing him because of a thing called ‘performance enhancing drugs’. Normally I don’t support booing…or Red Sox fans…but in this case, they may have a point.” We drifted off to sleep after a 4-run sixth inning that included a payback home run by Rodriguez and put the Yankees in the lead for good. It was the last time I’d stay up that late for the rest of the season. And maybe the next.
As I write this another six months has passed. The phone rings. It’s my childhood friend Laura, calling from California to break the news of Derek Jeter’s announced retirement at the end of the season, scooping emails from both the Yankees and MLB by a solid half hour. It’s been almost 20 years since Laura and I stood on the streets of New Year City together watching Jeter celebrate his first World Series ring with a parade along Broadway’s “Canyon of Heroes.” After all that time, we agree that we owe him a proper send-off. And, perhaps most importantly, we need to get Leah to Yankee Stadium to see him play. We hang up noting the need for early and intensive planning in the weeks ahead.
And so it begins, Leah. So it begins.
Nancy Golden is very excited to finally take advantage of “Fans 12 and under” promotions at the ballpark. Although in retrospect, borrowing a neighbor’s kid probably would have been a lot easier.